If you check the specs, the machines are identical. The CPU, motherboard, case, LCD, etc are all identical. If you go with the 60 GB, 7200 RPM drives, there's only one manufacturer so they would be identical. About the only majore items left are the optical drive and the RAM. There isn't that much difference in either cost or quality in those. So it boils down to the same situation between Voodoo and SAGER on the P4 machines. Voodoo is just more expensive. Period. And while that does get you a no-dead pixel policy, for the difference in price, you can send back a lot of SAGERs to get that perfect screen. Frankly out of 6 SAGERs, I've never had anything but a perfect screen. I'm pretty sure about 98% or more of them are perfect.
There may well be something to the difference in Customer Support and that can be a major issue. As someone alluded to, its not so much how good the product is (and yes, it should be dang good), anybody can put out a good machine to begin with, what really counts is 6 months later when it breaks down or something happens. If TECH SUPPORT isn't good, you will cry your eyes out and go to work at the Post Office just so you can go Postal.
But the machines are pretty much identical. I guess a paint job is a big deal to some folks, to me, its fluff. Personally, I'd just as soon have my laptop look like hell. Then someone is a lot less likely to want to steal it. All I care about is what the screen looks like. If its great, I don't care if the case looks like turds complete with flies.
As for the 2 GB of RAM, most any machine will support that, the problem is getting the RAM. Of course, you need the sockets for the appropriate SODIMMS, but whose got an extra $K for something you'll rarely use these days. The big issue is the buggered GPU with only 64 MB of VRAM, I don't understand that at all. Its like putting regular street tires on a race car. Simply ridiculous. And its not like 128 MB ATI 9600 PROs are strange and rare things. Probably only cost an extra $100. Most laptops with the 9600 don't offer it with anything but 128 MB. Oh well, everybody is stupid now and then.
Regarding the battery, heat, noise, most likely about the same as the upper end SAGERs, perhaps a bit better as the Athlon doesn't use or exhaust quite as much power. Fans are hard to say, just have to hear them. But if the experience SAGER owners have had with applying Arctic Silver to their systems, you could do a lot for fan noise just by applying a little grease. Maybe that's what makes the Voodoos cost so much. Then again, maybe not.